Systems can now choose which math to teach

School chief John Barge wasted no time on his pledge to revisit the state’s new math.

The question I have is whether this makes the situation even more complicated for transfer students — one of the concerns originally — as students often move from one system to another within the same state. Now, you could have adjacent Georgia systems teaching a different math program. And will we be paying for two sets of tests now?

Is this the best solution?

According to the AJC:

State Superintendent John Barge, responding to the ire of parents and the governors’ concerns about the graduation rate, introduced a plan Thursday to allow local school districts to choose how they will teach math giving students the same rigor, but different approaches to learning concepts.

The plan allows districts to teach math in the traditional way and do away with the current integrated Math I, Math II and Math III courses, accelerated classes which have been criticized for being too fast-paced resulting in the failure of about 80,000 students statewide on final exams in math last May.

Or districts can choose to offer both traditional and integrated math consecutively. They’d also have the option of continuing as is with the challenging integrated approach.

Students now in grades 9-12 would still be required to take integrated math through graduation. The integrated path, introduced under the leadership of former Superintendent Kathy Cox, was designed to expose students to advanced content sooner than under the old model so that they will be able to compete with their peers nationwide for college entry.

“We have seen through practice that some students are having trouble with an integrated delivery system,” said Barge. “Some of them don’t feel like they have the time that they need to truly master the concepts before they move on to another one.”

As a result students are falling behind and failing.

“What we are seeing in the field is far too many students who are in 10th and 11th grade that are already off track for graduation because they fail to pass Math I and Math II,” Barge said.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

95 comments Add your comment

Note

January 20th, 2011
6:24 pm

Bravo Mr. Barge. You have delighted this voter. Any plans to help those already in the quagmire?

Shamus

January 20th, 2011
6:34 pm

“Some of them don’t feel like they have the time that they need to truly master the concepts before they move on to another one.”

So, how is that the traditional organization solves this problem? Wouldn’t they have to learn the same materials by the same time anyway???

ScienceTeacher671

January 20th, 2011
6:51 pm

It’s going to be interesting to see what the majority of systems choose. What will they do about EOCTs for schools opting for traditional math, go back to the old Algebra EOCTs?

Personally, I’m beginning to think that the bigger problem is the CRCT. Fewer and fewer of the 9th graders seem to know basic math facts, or how to add, subtract, multiply and divide without using a calculator. Even worse, they have to be told how to put the numbers into the calculator for division!

However, if they barely passed the CRCT (which indicates they’re working at a 4th-5th grade level last I checked) they and their parents think they are “proficient” at math. Self-esteem is great, math skills stink. If they’re “committee promoted”, most of the parents don’t have a clue how far behind their children really are.

If I’m correct, it doesn’t matter which math curriculum we have — lots of children are going to fail, because lots of children aren’t ready for high school level math.

catlady

January 20th, 2011
6:57 pm

How on Earth does this make any sense?

ScienceTeacher: We are not ALLOWED to drill kids on math facts! Absolutely no flash cards or 100 problem timed tests! We are supposed to let children “discover” and “rediscover” that 4=9=13. Problem is, they are still “discovering” this as 5th graders, sometimes not correctly! Make me sick! The Emperor has no clothes!

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Dr Math E Matics and Alisha L. Gordon, Maureen Downey. Maureen Downey said: Systems can now choose which math to teach http://bit.ly/fOMKgS [...]

outsider

January 20th, 2011
7:03 pm

Catlady: My fourth grader is in a public school, and he has timed tests of multiplication and division facts. (In fact, he is sitting across the room now going through division flash cards with my wife.) My older child is enrolled in an accelerated Math III course and generally had a positive experience in Math I and II. He feels like he will be prepared for Calculus next year. Of course, as they would say in statistics, he represents a sample size of one.

Really amazed

January 20th, 2011
7:08 pm

Now, if we can only get rid of the crct I might just let my youngest go into public school within a few years, after this madness is worked out.

ScienceTeacher671

January 20th, 2011
7:10 pm

outsider, sometimes it depends on the school. For instance, there are probably high schools where teachers aren’t required to have a word wall, the standards posted, and an essential question on the board each day, but ours is not one of them. It doesn’t matter if 110% of my students exceed on the EOCT, if my room isn’t “decorated” properly I will not get a good Teacher Grade.

I suspect that our Accelerated kids are doing just fine, but the ones in Math Support are really struggling, and they don’t know basic math.

ScienceTeacher671

January 20th, 2011
7:11 pm

(and yes, I know it’s not possible to have over 100% of students do anything; I’m exaggerating to make a point)

what if

January 20th, 2011
7:17 pm

Bravo, indeed. I know several whom I consider superb teachers at or near retirement who have gotten out because of the ill-thought out mathematics standards – which have not, as far as I know, been reviewed externally for their cohesiveness as a CURRICULUM. Arbitrary and capricious “standards” are an entirely different construct than a functional curriculum across grades of well developed scope and sequence. It is also quite apparent that the ill-trained or selected committee that invented these standards made no consideration of the range of abilities of the complete student body. Like it or not, not all students are headed for Princeton.

Really amazed

January 20th, 2011
7:17 pm

@ScienceTeacher671, you sound like an excellent teacher and would love to know where you teach?? I would love for my children to have a teacher like you if returning to public.

Really amazed

January 20th, 2011
7:19 pm

@Catlady, you crack me up!!

outsider

January 20th, 2011
7:21 pm

ScienceTeacher: I’m sorry to hear that you are burdened with such ridiculous requirements, like room decoration. It is a very different world than I remember from my high school, many years ago and many miles away.

justin

January 20th, 2011
7:21 pm

@ catlady,

I think you just have a bad, poorly informed curriculum leader in your system. There is nothing in the GPS that says no drills. There is definite expectation that students know the basic facts. If you are being told otherwise, that person hasn’t read the GPS – certainly not understand it.

Would you teach?

January 20th, 2011
7:24 pm

The question remains, what about the students already caught in this mess? Dr. Barge cites the definite possibility of declining grad rates due to substantial numbers of students failing math, so what are we going to do about those kids from the original classes of 2012-2014 who got caught up in this failed experiment??

Attentive Parent

January 20th, 2011
7:27 pm

The nature of instruction, or whether any instruction at all is allowed as catlady describes, does depend on the school district.

It especially depends on whether there is college of education within the district or nearby.

To really get a handle on the math and education in Georgia generally someone in a position of authority is going to have to deal with the conflict of interests that have been created between the needs of the K-12 system and the revenue wants of USG.

Quite frankly if the USG system gets millions for pushing untried “innovative” approaches on K-12 you will have precisely the sort of academic problems that have haunted Georgia for so long.

catlady- I have tracked the discovery approach and nailed down the philosophies underlying it. It’s not in the least about a better way to educate until students have a solid base of knowledge. It’s more a political philosophy than an educational one.

But turning it into an educational philosophy has political implications.

HStchr

January 20th, 2011
7:32 pm

The problem with the new math is that if you can’t keep up and don’t have a firm grasp of basics, there’s no way you’ll pass. The reason the traditional math worked was because the skills were practiced often and algebra was algebra for the year. The new math requires a smattering of this and that where kids who aren’t math wizards don’t have time to master any particular skill before the next one is thrown at them. It’s a curriculum that has been dropped by just about every state that ever tried it. I wonder how many systems will actually choose to continue it solely. I suspect most, if not all, will begin a gradual phasing out of it…hopefully!

ScienceTeacher671

January 20th, 2011
7:34 pm

Amazed, I’m down here in the snow-free part of the state. ;-)

phil

January 20th, 2011
7:37 pm

If school systems go back to the traditional math, they are going to have to purchase textbooks for all of the traditional math classes Will school systems have the money to purchase these? That will be the major obstacle for school systems going back to traditional classess.

ScienceTeacher671

January 20th, 2011
7:39 pm

@catlady, they are still futilely trying to discover math facts in 9th grade, too. Sometimes in 9th grade for the 2nd or 3rd time.

@outsider, once upon a time, having something on the bulletin board was enough! :)

Autoteacher

January 20th, 2011
7:46 pm

What a great idea! Bravo yes! My students struggle with math at higher levels and only want to get through school so they can go to a tech school and work. They can fix your car and have no interest in solving the “Big Bang” or decoding DNA. Yes they need working applied math so that Networks and CAN BUS of new cars is no mystery but beating them up in academic class does no good because they will drop out. Go Dr. John!

Knock Out Punch

January 20th, 2011
7:49 pm

I think we have seen long enough that rote memorization of the basic facts is what is needed. If you don’t know these, then you are doomed to failure, even if you do know the correct procedure for solving a problem. Why can’t education just leave well enough alone and let us teach? Enough of the new fangled stuff….Sometimes, the way we were taught as children works!

HS Public Teacher

January 20th, 2011
7:58 pm

NOW I SEE!!

The grand republican education plan in GA….. is to refuse to take responsibility for any State level decisions. That way, they can ‘blame’ the local systems.

Why is it that republicans always must have a scape goat, someone else to blame?

It is the black people’s fault. It is the gay people’s fault. It is those darn Mexicans.

Hey republicans – the absolute least you can do is to grow a backbone! Own your decisions and stop blaming others!

Mike Honcho

January 20th, 2011
7:59 pm

This semester I am teaching the special math 3 support (GHSGT prep) class. Today, I was teaching students how to solve exponential equations by equating exponents. I was able to get most students to get the first few steps done, but once they had to solve an equation with variables on both sides WATCH OUT. These kids have passed both math I and Math II, and they still cannot solve algebra one equations. These are the kids that this curriculum is affecting the most.

RBN

January 20th, 2011
8:12 pm

How about middle schools? The math curriculum is frustrating to at least 33% of the 8th graders who are not developmentalloy ready for it. Will it change as well?

Atlanta mom

January 20th, 2011
8:13 pm

What does this mean :”Superintendent Kathy Cox, was designed to expose students to advanced content sooner than under the old model so that they will be able to compete with their peers nationwide for college entry”
It sounds to me like she was talking about increasing SAT scores? Considering that the SAT only tests through Algebra II, even students who begin regular Algebra as a HS freshman would have Algebra II at the end of junior year.
So, someone explain why the original change?

ScienceTeacher671

January 20th, 2011
8:29 pm

@Mike Honcho, do you have any idea what % of your students were committee promoted from 8th grade?

Mike Honcho

January 20th, 2011
8:54 pm

No, but that would be interesting to know. I’m just trying to help these kids pass the new high school graduation test. That thing is another story worthy of mention.

I wonder what effect today’s decision will have on the new graduation test.

Bella237

January 20th, 2011
8:58 pm

To address the concern about transfers- it would be a monumental pain, but not impossible. We already have that problem with students transferring from out of state schools. The biggest issue is that many of those schools still teach Algebra I in the 9th grade, which according to the new math standards is taught in Georgia by 8th grade. So, those students are behind when they transfer in.

Top School

January 20th, 2011
9:18 pm

And will we be paying for two sets of tests now?

It depends on who is selling them. Follow the money trail—- IT ALWAYS LEADS BACK TO THE SAME CIRCLE OF CORRUPTION. It is just labeled a different name…DEAL KNOWS “HOW TO DO IT”

another comment

January 20th, 2011
9:19 pm

Hopefully, most districts will go back to regular math because most of the kids are failing this math. Even the IB, AP and Honors kids are only able to take regular Math 1, 2, 3 and 2/3 of them are failing. My daughter scored 92-96% on the IOWA test at her Blue Ribbon Catholic School in K-8th grade in Math. We just could not afford to pay $16,000 a year for Marist or Holy Spirit a year and you do not get in if you are white and ask for Financial Aid at those schools. My children unfortunately have a deadbeat Dad, and the State of Georgia does not mandate Private School Tuition or they would still be in Catholic Schools. My daughter has been one of the few to eek out a B in this Math.

Another big problem with this integrated Math 123 is Cobb County’s 4 class = a full year in a 1/2 year semester. The kids in Cobb County only have a 1/2 of year to learn this Math. 90 minutes a day. For two years, my daughter has been stuck in a math class that gets split over the lunch break, to make matters worse. They go to class for either 30 minutes or 60 minutes then go to lunch then come back for the remainder. Somedays the teacher decides they get no lunch. Both years she had Math in Fall Semester. So much for the whole premise of the balanced calander and not loosing what you learned over the summer. She goes from Christmas Break to the next August without Math for the third year in a row. She is stuck in the Class of 2013. So I guess Barge is saying that her Class in particular is really screwed. The sad part is all of her Catholic School Buddies will have learned the real thing at Marist, and also have A averages going into UGA, Harvard, Duke, North Carolina, Norte Dame or wherever they all applied. This is why we need vouchers, so my kids can go to Catholic School or whatever Private School I want as well. If I had the $8,500 Cobb County spends, I could make up the difference in tuition.

ScienceTeacher671

January 20th, 2011
9:24 pm

I’m guessing the new graduation test will remain until it’s phased out. Next year’s 9th graders will be the first that can go back to regular math, and also will be the first who don’t have to take the GHSGT. The question will be whether or not new EOCTs will need to be developed, or if they’ll go back to the old ones.

bless the math teachers

January 20th, 2011
9:26 pm

I’d say that for the next few years, you might want to show your student’s math teachers the appreciation they deserve for having to exist and teach in this whole mess. If you think your student is struggling, imagine how these teachers feel day after day . . . .

Cindy B

January 20th, 2011
9:33 pm

Thank God! I doubt the transfer issue will be a problem for long because everyone — students, parents and teachers alike — hates this program so much that it’ll be dropped like a hot potato! Too late for my son who is in his third year of this crap, but good riddance!

HStchr

January 20th, 2011
9:33 pm

Science Teacher: I suspect that the state, unless there is a unilateral decision to change back to the former math sequence, will only provide one test and systems will have to foot the bill if they want a different test. I’ll be waiting to hear how the DOE decides to handle it. Another reason the governor will say they should have saved that federal money!

Ole Guy

January 20th, 2011
9:34 pm

Catlady, and all Georgia teachers, yet once again, I am going to spin the broken record of collective bargaining, of forming a unified voice in sending the clear message to the medling powers that be to GET THE HELL OUT OF THE CLASSROOM AND LET YOU DO THE JOB AS YOU SEE FIT! Cat, earlier today, you indicated that you were not allowed to drill kids on math facts (etc, etc)…(paraphrasing) not allowed to exercise your skills in a manner which you deem appropriate. This is nothing short of pure unadulterated BS; the ONLY time the teachers of Georgia will be able to truly be effective and truly make a difference is when you (collectively) send the message to the powers that be…when it comes to YOUR methods of delivery, BUTT OUT AND GO TO HELL! Do passengers tell the pilot how to fly the aeroplane? HELL NO! Do clients tell the attorney how to practice law? HELL NO! Do patients tell the physician how to perform a procedure? HELL NO! These professionals are entrusted, by virtue of training and experience, to ply their skills with autonomy. To even consider otherwise almost guarantees disaster…and that is exactly where the current state of education lies.

With all respect, Georgia teachers, when are you going to stop assuming the role of social myrtr, take command of your profession, and start cranking out generations in which we can have confidence for the future?

Mike Honcho

January 20th, 2011
9:35 pm

We know we have signed on to the common core standards along with many states. I believe the majority of the states are going to teach the standards using more of a tradition class order. I think Georgia should go back to the more traditional order. If the states can get together and give a similar standardized end of course test, maybe we can get a better idea how Georgia compares to other states.

Veteran teacher, 2

January 20th, 2011
9:36 pm

Great. So now, they pass the pain on to the locals, who cannot win no matter what they do. I hope that all of those that are now choosing to remember the “Golden Age of Math Instruction” in traditional math will find what they are looking for. I hope that those that have made the integrated math as presented work in their schools will continue to be successful.

Through it all, I will choose to continue to teach math.

Note to self: As usual no money will be forthcoming to do or re-do anything. There will be no money for texts. And, what kind of test are they going to saddle us with? Especially since it is proposed that AYP be tied to the 9th grade Math 1 test. This may be worse than the original implementation!! Watch what you ask for….You may get it!

Bigger problems than Math

January 20th, 2011
9:37 pm

The greatest problem in schools today (government and private) is the forced “diversity” in learning. The three R’s delivered better educated, more well adjusted and successful students than today (with less than half the books). The math taught today is flawed. Mine attended private schools Pre K – 12. Had we not used supplemental instruction at home (Saxon Math and Science) they would have struggled and never been admitted to their college choice. Despite paying hundreds of thousand of dollars and being the consumer of a product, the arrogance of the teachers (from the Headmaster on down) forced them to totally ignore that what they were teaching could stand drastic improvement. If the disaster that was whole language had an official counterpart in math it would be what is offered up today. The reality is the culture no longer values education and too many parents are lazy. No one likes to hear it but the truth hurts. The teacher can not bear the entire burden. If they aren’t supported with parents dedicated to discipline and learning, it won’t work (No…I’m not a teacher). Quit being your kids friend and be a parent. They’ll thank you when they can get into a good college and find a job. Mine did.

Really amazed

January 20th, 2011
9:41 pm

Yes, I do feel for the math teachers! Bless ya all!

AJinCobb

January 20th, 2011
9:45 pm

@another comment,

My sympathies about the rough time your daughter is having, and you too. However, please be aware that it’s not correct to generalize from your daughter’s experience to all of Cobb County, as you repeatedly did in your post. Not all CCSD high schools are on the block system, which is the half-year system you’re describing. Some of the high schools run a traditional full-year schedule of classes. You wrote “Even the IB, AP and Honors kids are only able to take regular Math 1, 2, 3….” This may be true at your daughter’s school but is not true of my child’s East Cobb middle and high schools, which offer Accelerated Math 1, 2, 3 to advanced students.

The problem with the block system providing only half a year to learn the curriculum, and semester gaps in which content can be forgotten, would be equally true whatever the math curriculum, wouldn’t it? If the block system makes it harder to master algebra when it’s called “Math I”, isn’t the block system going to pose exactly the same problem when the same skills are taught via the “Algebra 1″ approach?

MSMathTeacher

January 20th, 2011
9:49 pm

I have taught high school on the old and new systems and I much prefer the old curriculum and methods(currently teach middle school). I agree with most of the comments above. I am at a Title I school and 50% or more of my 8th graders are not developmentally ready for the abstract mathematical concepts that are part of GPS. Last year, almost all of the students who failed the CRCT at my school were promoted to 9th grade (where they will likely finally hit their brick wall in math, so to speak). These kids are continually exposed to math way beyond their comprehension, and none of them have learned the basics well. I received kids in high school who didn’t understand that a fraction represents division of the top number by the bottom.

My own children are stuck in this curriculum mess, one of whom was “doing” algebra in 5th grade, yet struggles with basic multiplication facts. How does this serve our children well? Our curriculum is a complete failure right now and I am depressed and broken hearted that I am a part of it. Teaching kids more stuff, sooner in their lives, is NOT the answer to our problems. I personally believe that after we provide them with SIGNIFICANT time to get a good foundation of basics in numeration, like fractions, integers, multiplication and division, etc., THEN they can learn anything else, in time. We are teaching them so many advanced concepts, that unless they are headed to engineering school, they will actually go backwards in math when they hit college. I’ve tutored several college students who were doing the same math as my 8th graders.

How could we allow our leaders (KC for one) to create such a mess! How could they choose to do something that other states already tried, and rescinded? I truly appreciate Mr. Barge’s willingness to change the wrongs before they affect even more generations of students with lasting negative effects. However, I also agree with the Maureen Downey, that allowing each system to choose their courses will be a nightmare in Georgia. We already have issues with transfers to/from other states, as someone else stated. Where and how do you place a student who was taking Math I, which has a little Statistics, Algebra, and Geometry mixed together, in a traditional system which has courses by subject, Algebra I, II, Geometry, etc.? Georgia has a long way to go to get back on track with math. I wish Mr. Barge luck with this, as it won’t be an easy fix, considering how long it took to “roll”out the GPS.

Em

January 20th, 2011
9:59 pm

As someone who has tutored high schoolers in this new math curriculum, I am very glad that schools will be able to do away with the new math. I have seen teachers and students struggle with this. Freshmen in Math I are expected to learn precalculus concepts and Juniors in Math III are learning concepts from Algebra I and II that they should have learned as Freshmen and Sophomores. Students are struggling the most with the fact that this curriculum jumps from concepts in statistics to precalculus to algebra. In the traditional Algebra I, II, and Geometry courses, students had to learn concepts that would be used and applied throughout the semester and year. While in the new math students learn a concept in statistics, then learn something completely different in geometry and at the end of the semester struggle to remember all the concepts they have learned.

Dan

January 20th, 2011
10:15 pm

Sounds like a recipe for chaos.

Mike Honcho

January 20th, 2011
10:24 pm

It has been chaos.

Dumb and Dumber

January 20th, 2011
10:24 pm

Really? I don’t think anyone could have come up with a better way to totally screw this up any worse. It is going to be a loooooooong 4 years for GA schools I am afraid.
The stupid in this just hurts.

SS Teacher

January 20th, 2011
10:33 pm

I still don’t understand why they introduced integrated mathematics in the first place. I know they said they wanted to make students more competitive for college admissions, but let’s get serious. Most Georgia students were already struggling with math when Algebra or Geometry was being taught the entire school year. So logically speaking, it makes very little sense to introduce students to more advanced concepts at the same age, when they were already struggling with the content of the (then) current curriculum. Also, even though only high school math was mentioned, the integrated approach begins in middle school, so eighth graders learn Algebra/Geometry/Statistics when they would typically have taken Pre-Algebra the entire year. The concepts fly over the heads of eighth graders, they fail the CRCT, and usually are promoted on to high school anyway, which only hurts their chances of success. I would also like to add that the fact that many high schools use block scheduling, meaning many students will take math the fall of one school year, and they may not take math again until the fall or spring of the following school year, does not help.

Down

January 20th, 2011
11:04 pm

they need to really dumb down the math or the Ga students will not pass. Pretty typical of the sorry schools in the state—but they need those high grad rates for the principals and school boards to get bonuses!!! pay up.

Mike Honcho

January 20th, 2011
11:14 pm

@Dumber – Talk with some high school math teachers. Our current curriculum has been and continues to be chaos. The training was poor, the materials (books, frameworks, etc) were provided late if at all, and don’t forget the common parent complaint of lack of textbooks. The first year I taught accelerated math one, I had to skip a unit due to the state not having it ready for me to teach. This year, just weeks prior to the start of school, they changed rules regarding credits and math 3 support. I don’t believe the 4 year math courses have been developed yet. (Not sure about that one) Chaos.
@SS Teacher – When we were first introduced to this integrated curriculum 4 or 5 years ago we (majority of math teachers I know) didn’t believe this was a good plan. I remember New York had decided to drop the integrated curriculum and return to algebra, geometry, algebra 2 during the year preceeding our implementation. It took New York 7 years to correct the mistake. At least we are trying to fix it as soon as possible.

Educator for Life

January 20th, 2011
11:38 pm

@catlady, your administration is horrible if you do not allow the remediation of earlier concepts. In order to do probability, students must know how to use the four operators with fractions. So, there should be some time to revisit thes topics to ensure that the students have the tools to meet the appropriate standard. Don’t blame a curriculum on your adminstration’s inefficiencies.